Kim Gandy was born in Louisiana on January 25, 1954. After graduating from Louisiana Tech University in 1973 with degrees in mathematics and education, she worked for four years as a forecaster and statistical analyst for the South Central Bell telephone company.
Gandy joined the National Organization for Women (NOW) in 1973. Five years later, she graduated from the Loyola University School of Law in New Orleans and promptly took a job as an assistant district attorney in that city. From 1978-87 she ran a private law practice (also in New Orleans), specializing in child support, marital custody, lesbian custody, domestic violence, and sex discrimination. She famously sued the U.S. Air Force for sex discrimination and, after nine years of litigation, won a $184,000judgment.
In 1981, Gandy founded the Louisiana Women’s Lobby Network. As the organization’s director, she drafted several measures that eventually became law, including the Louisiana Child Support Enforcement Act and Louisiana’s first Domestic Abuse Assistance Act.
From 1983-87, Gandy served as NOW’s Mid-South regional director.
Gandy played a role in shaping the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which gave women the right to sue for monetary damages in cases of sex discrimination and sexual harassment.
In 1991 as well, Gandy directed the “Women Elect 2000 Project,” designed as a prototype for registering and mobilizing female voters in Louisiana.
In December 1991 Gandy became a board of directors member of Legal Momentum, whose mission is to “ensure economic and personal security for all women and girls by advancing equity in education, the workplace, and the courts.”
That same month, Gandy became NOW’s executive vice president, a move that placed her in charge of the organization’s legislative and litigation-related agendas. As such, she guided the landmark NOW v. Scheidler case that used the anti-racketeering RICO laws as a way to silence and jail anti-abortion protesters. She also helped shape the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, wherein she pressed for a selective reading of the First Amendment so as to allow organized labor to picket for higher wages in front of an abortion clinic, while denying anti-abortion demonstrators the same right to picket there. Gandy would retain this position with NOW until June 2001.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Gandy helped coach Democratic candidate Al Gore on how to “reach the women of this country.” “When it comes to the issues that affect women’s lives,” said Gandy, “Vice President Gore has it all over Governor [George W.] Bush.”
In response to a June 2000 conference encouraging heterosexual marriage, Gandy dismissed the notion that marriage is necessarily beneficial to women, especially poor women. “I think promoting marriage as a goal in and of itself is misguided,” she said. “The marriage movement is giving women the message that a bad husband and father is better than none at all. Single moms are being demonized. NOW is committed to exposing and organizing against this deliberate return to the days of unchallenged male control.”
During her ten-year stint as NOW’s executive vice president, Gandy lobbied hard against work requirements for female victims of domestic violence. “Work [requirements] would be like making her [the domestic violence victim] stand on a trap door,” she said. In addition, Gandy argued that any cuts to federal public assistance would only lead to more violence against women.
In July 2001, Gandy: (a) began an eight-year run as an Executive Committee member of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; (b) started a nine-year run as a board of directors member with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; and (c) was elected president of NOW (with the support of outgoing president Patricia Ireland). (During her presidency, Gandy would also serve a stint as chair of the NOW Political Action Committee.)
In 2002, Gandy and NOW endorsed the “Call to a Motherhood Movement,” which advocated a “fundamental reordering of the priorities of our society, a society so driven by radical individualism and values of commerce that it is losing touch with the values of the mother world — the essential ethics of care and [nurture] that are indispensable for both children and a good society.”
Throughout her years with NOW, Gandy kept gay-and-lesbian rights on a front burner of the organization’s social and political agenda. In May 2002 she said, vis-a-vis the issue of gay marriage: “I never cease to be amazed that anyone would actively oppose the marriage of any two people who want to make a legal commitment to love, honor and support each other.”
In a 2003 interview, Gandy expressed her strong desire to keep abortion legal. “I don’t want to be part of the generation that won reproductive rights and then lost it before our daughters had that benefit,” she said. “And I look at my two little girls. They’re seven and nine. And I know that I’m in this movement because I want to make sure that they will have choices.”
In 2003 as well, Gandy lamented that if President Bush appointed abortion opponents to the Supreme Court, “Roe will be lost for the entire reproductive life of my 10-year-old daughter.” “It’s not just abortion rights,” she elaborated, “it’s family planning, it’s the morning-after pill for rape victims, it’s scientific research, it is the very right of women to control their lives and to control their futures and to make private decisions privately.”
When the Bush administration reacted to the 9/11 terrorist attacks by passing the PATRIOT Act and demanding that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein abdicate his seat of power (under threat of a U.S. military invasion), Gandy said: “The real terrorism is the Bush administration’s disregard for international law and destruction of civil liberties at home. This has become an issue of one dictator [Bush] versus another [Saddam].”
Gandy blamed the outbreak of the Iraq War in 2003 on a “deceitful” President Bush who, by her telling, had “misled the public” and “misled the Congress” in making a case for military action. Gandy also accused the U.S. military of routinely mistreating “our soldiers, especially our female soldiers.” “There are women soldiers in Iraq,” she elaborated, “who died of dehydration because they were afraid to drink any liquids after three or four in the afternoon because they would be raped if they had to go to the latrine at night. Raped by our own soldiers.”
On April 25, 2004, Gandy was a featured speaker at the March for Women’s Lives in Washington, D.C., a massive event that focused chiefly on preserving and expanding women’s right to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand. Other speakers at the rally included Gloria Feldt, Barbara Boxer, Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem, Medea Benjamin, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Patricia Ireland, Frances Kissling, Madeline Albright, Maxine Waters, Kate Michelman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Carol Moseley Braun, Dolores Huerta, Ted Turner, Kathleen Turner, Whoopi Goldberg, Carole King, Cybill Shepherd, and Susan Sarandon.
In October 2006, Gandy became an advisory board member with Ms. magazine, a position she continues to hold.
On July 27, 2007, Gandy spoke at a Washington, D.C. anti-war rally sponsored by United For Peace and Justice. She accused males in the U.S. military of committing “rapes and assaults of female soldiers and female Iraqis, with few consequences.” A moment later, in an oblique call for socialized medicine, Gandy expressed compassion for these same alleged abusers, who she said “are being sent home, physically and psychologically damaged, to a drastically inadequate health care system.” Also speaking at the rally were: Medea Benjamin, Leslie Cagan, John Conyers, Eve Ensler, Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Lerner, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Eleanor Smeal, Maxine Waters, and Lynn Woolsey.
At the onset of the 2008 election season, Gandy supported Hillary Clinton for U.S. President. Along with such notables as Eleanor Smeal and Olga Vives, Gandy was a member of a NOW PAC called “Women for Hillary in Pennsylvania.”
Gandy was contemptuous of Republican presidential nominee John McCain’s September 2008 choice of Alaska governor Sarah Palin to be his running mate. Gandy called Palin “a woman who opposes women’s rights, just like John McCain.”
Since 1990, Gandy has contributed money to the campaigns of a number of political candidates — all Democrats. Among the recipients of her donations have been Hillary Clinton, Donna Edwards, Carol Moseley Braun, Mary Landrieu, Linda Bowker, and Louise McIntosh Slaughter. Gandy also has made contributions to the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and NOW PAC.
In June 2009, Gandy began a four-year stint as an executive committee member of Political Parity, an organization that works to “elevate the number of women in the halls of Congress and governor’s mansions across the country.”
In July 2009, Gandy stepped down from her post as NOW’s president.
From August to December 2009, Gandy was a resident fellow at the Kennedy School of Government’s Institute of Politics. From January 2010 to October 2012, she served as vice president and general counsel for the Feminist Majority Foundation. Since November 2012, she has been the president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence.